50 years ago, Alan Shepard became the first American in space and President Kennedy challenged science, engineering and US citizenry to do what most thought to be impossible - put a man on the Moon.   They succeeded and that and successive space achievements spurred their interest in science and engineering among young people education.

But NASA gradually lost its way.   The space shuttle was an incremental development and in 2004 President Bush declared he wanted to renew America's science initiatives in space and by 2005 NASA was developing the Constellation program, focusing on a return to the moon while simultaneously developing the plans and techniques to venture beyond, and eventually to Mars.

The program enjoyed near-unanimous support, being approved and endorsed by the Bush administration and by both Democratic and Republican Congresses but, like everything NASA does these days, Constellation went over budget and fell behind schedule.

In 2010, Pres. Obama pulled the plug on Constellation (see Goodbye Constellation, Hello ... Baracket?) and replaced it with an expensive, yet less ambitious new idea that, coincidentally, has his name on it rather than Pres. Bush.  Basically, Pres. Obama does not seem to care about space.  Whether or not NASA has earned his scorn with its consistent overruns and lack of initiative (as noted in 50 Years Of Manned Space Flight - An Interview With A Lead Engineer For The Mercury Program it needn't take 16 years to go back to the Moon since we already know how to do it and it only took 10 years when we had no idea at all how it could be done) is up to speculation, yet Neil Armstrong, Jim Lovell and Gene Cernan, no strangers to the power of American initiative when it is mobilized, pull no punches on Obama:
NASA's human spaceflight program is in substantial disarray with no clear-cut mission in the offing. We will have no rockets to carry humans to low-Earth orbit and beyond for an indeterminate number of years. Congress has mandated the development of rocket launchers and spacecraft to explore the near-solar system beyond Earth orbit. But NASA has not yet announced a convincing strategy for their use. After a half-century of remarkable progress, a coherent plan for maintaining America's leadership in space exploration is no longer apparent.